Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Twenty Nine

Its been a weekend of decorating this week so I’ve been trying to fit in bits of knitting and spinning where I can. I’m also trying to read a lot more this year which cuts into crafting time; it hard having hobbies that conflict with each other.

Anyway the man socks are coming to an end and I should wrap these up this evening. Despite having several ‘one sock projects’ on the go I am naturally casting around for my next cast on. I’m looking for ideas for some beautiful Malabrigo Mechita in Eggplant. I originally bought this for knitting Ink but I’ve struggled to get started with the cabled collar. I think rather than a cardigan I might go with an oversized sweater or tunic, something simple for slouching around in on weekends.

In spinning news I’m still making my way down my 12 Days. This is the next set of colours for days 7-12.

I’ve split the fibre so that the first set of singles is days 2–7, the second days 7-12, and the third a combination of both. The 100g of fibre from day one is split between the three. Even at a three ply I think I will probably hit a fingering weight. I’m not sure if a combo spin was the right approach but it’s an enjoyable spin and it’s going to be a surprise when it’s plied!

Year of Projects Week Twenty Seven

It’s been a while since I posted anything but the end of last year was just so busy I found it difficult to get much crafting done. I have managed to make some progress over the Christmas period:

The Man-Socks of Doom are slowly getting there. They would have been finished by Christmas but I went wrong on the heel turn and lost heart at the thought of unravelling. This is definitely one to finish for January.

I finished my corespun yarn and I will do an update for this later in the week once I’ve worked out how much I have. I’m not sure whether I like this or not, and I have absolutely no idea what to actually do with it, but I really enjoyed the process of making it.

I’m making my way through my Hilltop Coloud 12 Days of Cristmas spin. I’ve decided to spin this as a traditional 3-ply mixing and matching the fibres in a combo spin. I’m enjoying it so far. This is my progress with the first six days.

I haven’t made any crafting goals for the year ahead beyond trying to make sure I do something every week, however small. I think for now finishing up some of my WIPs will be the main focus and I certainly have plenty of those. I’d like to try and use up some stash, I know there is some beautiful purple Malabrigo there somewhere. I’m hoping Wonderwool will run this year. It’s my local yarn festival and it’s been two years since it was about to run as a physical thing. I’m going to try and keep my yarn purchasing at a minimum with the exception of that.

Non-crafting goals are to get more books read this year, I’m aiming for 75. I do include audio books otherwise I find having to choose between crafting and reading difficult. I’m also hoping it increase my running this year so my January challenge is to run at least one mile a day. The weather here is pretty atrocious at the moment so it’s a hard call as to whether I should have made it a swimming challenge!

That’s it for my quick update. Wishing you a happy 2022 and good luck with your own projects and challenges for the year ahead.

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Twenty

I missed a posting last week because things have been super busy on the work front. I think I’m back on top of things again now (famous last words and all that!)

This week I’ve mostly been spinning because even endless rounds of stockinette stitch socks was too much. Well to be fair, I turned the heel, messed up somehow, ripped it back and haven’t had the heart to pick it up again so spinning it is.

I’ve made a start on an art yarn gradient using fibre from the 2020 Fellview Fibres 12 Days of Christmas Calendar, you can see the original batts here on the Fellview Fibres website. I wanted to do something different to my usual ‘spin it and see what you get’ although I’m a bit sad I’ve lost the lovely lustre of the blend. I’m not quite good enough to spin a balanced singles core spun yarn so I’ve gone with making a plied core spun.

I’m spinning it around a lace weight cotton core and then plying it with some gold thread to keep that Christmassy theme. I still have to finish the yarn so I’m not sure what metreage I’ll have at the end yet but I’m hoping for enough for a knitted cowl or maybe I’ll try a woven project but I think that would need to be mixed with another yarn. I’m also not really sure how to measure the WPI with art yarn so I need to investigate that.

In other projects I’ve given my wheel a bit of a polish as she looked a bit ‘dry’. Maybe the winter heating affects her too, I’m starting to feel like the central heating is sucking all of the moisture from my body too. At this rate I’ll be a desiccated husk by December! I’ll try and remember to give her an oiling too as I don’t think I do this anywhere near enough.

As for the garden is pretty much going to ruin now. I think I’ll just close the curtains and check on it again in March!

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Thirteen

A bit of a late update from me this week as yesterday got away from a me a bit. Progress has been slow on various projects but at least it’s being made. My Ogopogo sock has reached the heel. Remind me never to cast on cable socks again. I know I said it last time but I forgot. I love the pattern but it’s slow progress for me. I think I will cast on a second, easy project to do while I’m watching television. Trying to watch the Vigil finale last night and make progress with a cabled sock was just too much!

As with previous weeks I’ve been making progress with my online spinning workshop with SweetGeorgia Yarns. I’m really enjoying this as it’s been a great opportunity to try out new things. I generally spin fibre as it comes. It would never really occur to me to try to change the preparation of a bought fibre to alter how I spin it, or to change how the colour works when spun, or even (the horror) put different coloured braids together and alter someone’s carefully thought out colour scheme.

Last week we experimented with soaking fibre in warm water and drying it before spinning. The purpose of this is to reinvigorate fibre which may have lost its crimp in processing or storage, and to make it a smoother, loftier spin. I only tried this with some undyed BFL I had (it’s not supposed to work as well with dyed fibre) but it did make quite a difference in terms of the loftiness of the finished fibre.

L-R: not soaked, unfinished; not soaked, finished; soaked, unfinished; soaked, finished

I’m not sure that you can really tell from this photo but the final sample skein was spun from pre-soaked fibre which was then soaked again after spinning to set the twist. The finished result is definitely lighter and fluffier than the non-soaked but similarly finished skein. This might be something I’d do again with older braids I’ve had crushed up in storage boxes under the bed.

I’ve also been experimenting with twist and ply. This is some of the sampling I’ve done so far. Next on the list is to try with some sock yarn techniques, I’m interested in trying out the opposing 3-ply technique where one of your singles is spun in the opposite direction before being plied with the other two.

I think what’s struck me most about the course so far is that there is genuinely a reason why yarn doesn’t want to be a particular project (I mean a reason other than I saw something I liked better a few days after casting on). I’m happy with the idea that certain yarns have drape or loft, but I’m getting a better idea now of why two, three, or four ply yarns suit certain projects better depending on whether it is lace or cables, or why high or low twist yarns might alter a project. Hopefully this will help me with deciding what commercial yarns will work better for a specific project. Or maybe I’ll just by multiple skeins anyway!

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Twelve

Only a quick update from me today as it’s been a quite week in terms of actually producing anything. I’ve finished the fourth skein in my five skeins gradient spin. This is a 3-ply sweater spin using a Hilltop Cloud Fade pack. I still need to skein and soak it.

I’ve also made progress with my homework for my spinning course. I’ve been experimenting with pre-soaking fibre before spinning. I’ve been very surprised at the impact pre-soaking fibre has, and it definitely makes for a smoother draft and loftier yarn. I’ve only tried it with BFL so far, but I have some other fibres to try. I’m also experimenting with some different ways of spinning sock yarns so hopefully there will be some updates on that shortly.

In other news I’m slowly putting the garden to bed for the winter. I plan to grow some more shallots over the winter as these were one of last year’s big successes. I’ve also got the last few courgettes to harvest. I don’t think I will go near tomatoes ever again as they just seem to be a disappointment. I do have my first, very tiny, aubergine coming on, but I’m not sure if it will grow big enough in the last few weeks of warmer weather. The flower beds were a huge disappointment so I’m giving one of those over to potatoes next year.

Hopefully there will be a bit more to report in the coming weeks. We’re heading in to my favourite season so plenty of time for knitting by the fireside as the nights start to draw in.

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Eleven

Some steady progress this week but nothing much to show for it. I’ve been working away a few rows at a time on my Ogopogo sock (I find cables on socks very fiddly and I really can’t get the hang of cabling without a cable needle). I’ve also finished spinning the second set of singles for the fourth skein in my five skein 3-ply sweater spin (did you manage to follow that?). This will be the largest project I have ever spun for and I ‘think’ I’m keeping things pretty consistent.

Of course I only ‘think’ I’m being consistent because I’ve not actually kept notes. Not properly. Not helpful notes. I found the notes I did write down, for example I wrote down that I was spinning it on my largest ratio, but this is not helpful when I have subsequently bought new whorls with larger ratios. Which was my largest ratio when I started? When did I start? It tells me I’m spinning from the fold. This is good, this is great in fact, but it also tells me I’m spinning it ‘LBD’. What does this mean? I don’t think it means anything except Little Black Dress and I know I’ve not been spinning in one of those. The best I can come up with is it meant long backwards draft, which isn’t even a thing, so I don’t know if I meant long draw or short backwards draft. Anyhow the upshot of all of this (and the fact it’s one of my pieces of homework for my spinning class), is that I have to think about a system for managing my spinning notes and samples.

Essentially this combines all of my yarn hobbies with my inner stationery nerd. Add in a smattering of basic preservation knowledge (because although I reckon I’ve got about forty more years left in me at best, my project notes must survive for a thousand years) and there’s a good chance I’ll never make anything again as I’ll still be perfecting my project note system!

Ring binders seem the obvious choice. They’re flexible, can take extensive notes as well as small sample skeins/fibres, they can combine paper, card, wallets etc. I think I’ll end up going forward with this although I’m not a big fan of binders. I find them too large for sitting on the sofa leafing through my projects with a cup of tea and a piece of cake.

A card index system could work, and I have an old library card catalogue unit for this (it’s currently used for my spindle and pocket notebook storage). Or maybe these and a storage box for them for portability? I have a feeling though that I’d lose lose cards and they’d never end up back where they should be.

I’ve used Happy Planner in the past for my planning, and something based on their disc binder system could work and would function a little like a binder. Or maybe scrapbooking or photo albums with stiffer pages could work where I could punch the paper and tie my sample yarn in, paste in any notes and then cross reference with samples skeins kept in another box?

I’ve still got a lot of thinking to do on this but I’d love to hear about how you store your crafting notes.

Finished Object: From Fluff to Stuff

Two weeks after finishing it I’m finally getting around to posting my Mothed FO. I struggled to get gauge with this so I knitted the large hoping for a medium(ish) (why yes, I am terrible with gauge and just hope for the best). Then lockdown happened and I wished I’d knitted the next size up 😂. Still I’m nearly back down to my pre-lockdown weight so hopefully I’ll get some autumn wear out of this. I want it to hang loosely and it fits a little too well at the moment.

The yarn is a Fellview Fibre spin from a few years ago in the colourway Jet Powered, which I think was a merino/silk blend. The yarn was a traditional 3-ply with the rolags as one ply, and then one ply of a camel/silk blend and one of yak/silk.

I was pretty happy with this spin at the time, but finishing up this project a couple of things strike me. The first is that my spinning has really improved over the last few years. I’m still far from perfect, but I spin much more consistently now and my yarns are softer. The second is that Yak is not a fibre for me. I’ve tried it a couple of times and it always seems to come out a little over plied. Still it’s made for a jumper with a nice lightness and drape to it that I think will make good autumn/spring wear.

Despite the two years it sat in a cupboard (a lot less than I thought) this is actually a pretty quick and easy knit and I think I’d use it as a template for another jumper in the future, probably with a slightly thicker yarn or one with less drape and more ‘spring’.

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Ten

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d been looking at the School of SweetGeorgia classes and after poking around with my two week introductory price I thought I’d stay at least long enough to complete the Spinning Study Group.

The main purpose of this nine week class is to think about how to plan your spinning for a project. I admit I’ve been spinning for years and I rarely think about what I’m actually going to do with the yarn I spin – maybe this is why there is an enormous tub of handspun yarn under the bed right now! Spinning is my relaxation. I don’t think too hard about it. I like to watch tv or listen to an audio book and just let the fibre do its thing.

Mostly this is fine. Sometimes this is terrible! I’m a fast treadler. If treadling was an Olympic sport I’d be lapping Chris Hoy. If I don’t pay attention I can end up with very twisty yarn that’s always just a bit tougher than it should be. So spending nine weeks learning to think a bit more about each of the processes, from fibre choice to final product, sounds like it is the kind of thing I should do.

After watching a few videos of other spinners talking about their thought processes in designing yarn for particular projects, the first week’s homework is to assess a commercial yarn in the style we’d like to spin over the next few weeks. I considered bulking up a bit and trying for at least a DK/aran weight but then I decided since fingering weight is what I use the most, mastering that would probably be a better use of my time. So today’s job is to finish off gathering information about the John Arbon Exmoor Sock yarn (wpi, tpi etc) which I’m going to use as my guiding yarn for this spin and I’ve ordered some sock fibre as that’s what I’m aiming for as my final project.

Other than working on the workshop there has been some small progress on the next pair of socks I’m knitting and I’ve finished blocking my Mothed jumper – I will get around to posting pictures next week.

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Starry Night

I’ve had a blending board under my bed for over a year now. I bought it early on in the first UK lockdown thinking investing in crafting materials would probably be a very good investment for the months ahead and then I just never got around to using it.

It’s a Golden Fleece Carders blending board which comes with the blending brush and the rolling dowels. I think the TPI is probably 108 as I work mostly with finer fibres although I’m trying to get out of my rut of merino and silk at the moment, There isn’t a stand with this one that I have seen on the back of others so you need to work it flat, but it does have a non-slip backing to the board.

I don’t really know why I’ve left it untouched for so long as getting going was pretty straight forward at least, it really does feel like painting the fibre on. The silk was a bit hard going but I think that was a little bit compacted from the dyeing process. The hard work of putting the colours together was done for me by Katie at Hilltop Cloud and I think I will pick up a few of her colour co-ordinated packs while I get to grips with the process as it’s possible to make great looking rolags even if the technique needs some work.

I really like the paintings of Van Gogh and as I was filling the blending board I was reminded of The Starry Night and how much I love the colour and texture of that painting, so here are my Starry Night rolags.

I followed the recommendation I’d been given to offset the wooden dowel rods to make it easier to slide the fibre off. Despite my best efforts I think I loaded too much fibre on to the board so pulling it off the board was a bit more difficult. My first rolag turned out to be a giant one as I hadn’t quite got the idea that you pull and roll in one movement rather than roll and roll and then try pulling. As a result I ended up with far too much fibre in the first one.

I think the other ones turned out ok though for a first attempt. I have so much respect for the people who make those lovely neat, tight rolags I get in the post! I now need to work out how to not get thick/thin spots. And how to not get holes in my thumbs from the carding cloth!

Year of Projects 2021/2 Week Three

So the Tour de Fleece comes to a close. I managed to complete my Witch Hazel gradient from Fellview Fibres. I really love the colours in this one and although there are some subtle differences in the spinning between the first part which I spun last year and this year’s two skeins, I don’t think it is enough to make much difference.

Gradient Spin

This year I’ve committed myself to keeping better notes on Ravelry about my projects so I’m pleased to say this is already logged and stashed. I can also say that the project worked out to be:

  • Length: 550m
  • Weight: 202g
  • Ply: chain
  • Wheel: Schacht Matchless
  • Ratio: 9:1
  • Twist: S
  • WPI: 15
  • TPI: 4
  • Angle of Twist: 40°
  • Grist: 1321 YPP

I’m not yet sure what I’m going to do with it so I’ll get to spend some time poking around Ravelry looking for ideas.

In other project news this week has seen some garden related productivity. I planted some shallots last autumn and harvested these a couple of weeks ago. Courtesy of my partner they’re now on their way to being our first pickles of the season. We have cider, red wine, and balsamic vinegars here – just waiting for some more red wine to top up the middle one. We’re hoping for a good crop of chillies for pickling later in the year.

Pickled Shallots